Ceremony to Honor Dr. Melvin Baldwin, Civil War Veteran and early Shoreham Hero,
at SCC Memorial Day Cocktail Party, Sunday May 28th 4-7 PM
A special ceremony will be held at the Memorial Day Cocktail part on Sunday May 28th. We will be belatedly honoring Dr. Melvin Baldwin, a Civil War Veteran and hero of early Shoreham (then Wardenclyffe) who, at age 70, tragically died in the defense of Shoreham on April 28, 1901, warding off a raging brush fire that was threatening our little Village and the magnificent fruit tree orchards that he had recently planted and was nurturing.
We will be celebrating Dr. Baldwin’s remarkable life and the sacrifices he made for our Country and for our Village, and dedicating a gravestone and bronze Civil War Veteran’s insignia (pictured above) that has just been placed at his previously unmarked grave by our own Tom Spier, a trustee of the Wading River Cemetery Association, who has worked tirelessly to make sure Dr. Baldwin receives his just honor.
Born in Vermont and raised in Illinois, Melvin Baldwin had been a Captain in the Union Army in the Civil War, seeing action in a number of battles. After the war, he had studied medicine and had both a medical practice and pharmacy in Illinois, where he also served as mayor and postmaster in Elgin, Ill. His health failing, he moved to Kansas where he apparently made the acquaintance of James Warden, then in Kansas engaged in banking and investing. On the plains of Kansas, Dr. Baldwin’s health was restored and he was very successful in his new endeavor as a horticulturist, laying out and cultivating healthy, productive fruit orchards.
When James Warden moved to Woodville Landing and began developing Wardenclyffe, he apparently enticed Dr. Baldwin to move east to plant and cultivate fruit orchards here, starting around 1896. (Baldwin also served as Wardenclyffe’s first Postmaster.) Within 4 years, the industrious Dr. Baldwin, in spite of being in his late 60’s, had remarkably laid out 4000 peach trees and an equal number of apple trees along the Woodville Valley, just south and east of the early Village.
Photo: Dr. Baldwin’s apple trees in bloom where the tennis courts now stand.
But Dr. Baldwin’s good works were cut short: On the evening of April 28, 1901, a raging brush fire broke out in Wading River, and threatened Wardenclyffe as it swept westward towards Rocky Point, just south of the Village and Dr. Baldwin’s orchards. Though 70 years old, Dr. Baldwin led a crew of men who valiantly fought the fire all night. The fire was almost out, but then the wind suddenly shifted and the fire flared up and overtook Dr. Baldwin, who stumbled and fell trying to outrun it. By the time help came, he had succumbed to the smoke and flames.
But the Village had been saved.
Dr. Baldwin was buried in an unmarked grave at Wading River Cemetery. He had lost his 1st wife in 1890, and had just remarried about 5 years before his death. His widow, Mary Anderson Hemenway, sadly died of acute melancholia shortly after Dr. Baldwin’s passing. She was from Massachusetts, where she was laid to rest.
And so, it is fitting that we honor this Civil War hero, and hero of early Shoreham. To this end, Tom Spier last year appealed to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for a gravestone to mark Dr. Baldwin’s grave, and TSVA has provided the funds for the placement of the gravestone, which now sits on a lovely spot up on the hill in the cemetery among many fellow Shorehamites, many whom we ourselves may fondly remember. Please go visit it and pay your respects when you are able.
Click here for 1935 newpaper article on Dr. Baldwin (see page 5 of newspaper).